This review of Baskets contains spoilers.
Baskets Season 3 Episode 10
Make that now three holiday episodes in this season of Baskets. It’s New Year’s Eve this time and, again, refreshingly, Baskets has no interest in playing up the celebrations. The episode takes place almost exclusively in a run-down cabin in the woods and the only thing to remind you of the holiday are Christine’s novelty glasses from 2009 that she got from the dollar store, which, in themselves, downplay the importance of the present holiday. (“Well, maybe it’ll become fashionable again” Chip helpfully offers.)
It is still a momentous night for our characters, however, as Ken gets Chip and Dale’s blessing to propose to Christine and Dale’s snap decision marriage falls apart. Whenever sitcom characters need to hash something out, a solid way to go is to assemble them all in a small space and “New Year’s Eve” runs with that concept by cramming the entire Baskets’ family and Dale’s new woman, as well as Ken and his children into the same little cabin. There are a lot of great moments here as characters pair off in different combinations to have heart-to-hearts.
Christine trying to get to know Dale’s sudden fiancé, Shannon, is a lot of fun. It’s interesting to witness how Christine can turn on the charm with people to get to know them. She’s obviously suspicious of and predisposed to disapprove of Shannon, but she hides it well, pretending to be open and interested in her and her Red Bull addiction. It’s also sweet when, later, Christine reveals she’s self-conscious about Ken’s daughters not liking her and they tell her not to worry because they already do.
The funniest, most touching scene is with Chip and Ken in a storage room looking over a board game collection. “Can you imagine mom playing Twister?” asks Chip. “No,” says Ken, “I can’t imagine that.” Ken gets Chip’s blessing to propose to Christine and then we’re reminded of the past tragedy in the Baskets family’s lives when Chip tells Ken “Do me a favor. Don’t kill yourself like my first dad did.”
It’s smart how this dialogue reintroduces the specter of Chip and Dale’s father’s suicide, something which becomes central to the episode when Dale runs off into the woods after shouting “Maybe this family would be better without me!” just as his father did before killing himself. The overall tone of “New Year’s Eve” isn’t too dark, but these bits of dialogue add a subtle element of tension. It’s not so much that we really expect Dale to die, but it elegantly helps us empathize with why Christine is so worried about him running off.
In the end, “New Year’s Eve” is about Dale’s redemption. He’s hit rock bottom and in response has been lashing out at everyone for the whole season. It’s a welcome and deserved turn for him to finally come around and recognize how awful he’s been acting. This happens by way of a hilarious slap fight between him and Chip, a talk with Ken, and Shannon running out on him. The latter is the most interesting because Shannon has been presented as an odious, off-putting person since she was introduced at the end of the previous episode, but our expectations are subverted when she runs out on Dale because, amazingly, he’s even more awful than she is.
Dale’s redemption is a rewarding conclusion to the episode and the season. We also get (as much as a low-stakes series like this can have) cliffhangers as we cut to the credits just before Ken gets his chance to propose to Christine and Chip gets a call from his ex-wife Penelope, who was otherwise completely absent from season three. It’s been another fun and engaging season in the Baskets’ family saga and this was a satisfying finale with only one major flaw: no Martha!